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2015 Cerbaiona Rosso di Montalcino

MSRP: $90.00
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Rosso di Montalcinbo
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Here’s the (certainly confident; I hope they live up to it) explanation from Cerbaiona’s new director of how this great wine, and even greater bargain, came to be:

January 2020 brings the release of the 2015 Cerbaiona Rosso di Montalcino, a wine with a particular story because it represents a blend of 20% 2015 Rosso di Montalcino and 80% atto a divenire Brunello di Montalcino, the latter which I voluntarily declassified to 2015 Rosso di Montalcino, making one wine out of the two – and producing no 2015 Brunello in Montalcino.

By all counts, 2015 was an exceptional – even extraordinary – growing season for Sangiovese. While extremely warm at several points during the summer months, short rains and drops in temperature arrived as if on cue. Grapes followed a stable path to full maturity and harvest began at the end of September with fruit in visibly perfect condition, free of any rotting or mould, and the grapes seeds and stems perfectly mature as well. Grapes bunches were smaller than normal, leading to intensely flavoured berries. A grower could hardly ask for more.

So the choice not to produce a Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino would seem perplexing, if not outright contradictory. In fact, while the casks of 2015 Rosso di Montalcino and 2015 Brunello di Montalcino were ageing in the cellars at Cerbaiona, I had little doubt that the estate, under my complete charge, would eventually bottle two separate wines.

Yet as those wines developed and showed the beauty of an exceptional vintage, by early 2018, I was two and-a-half years into a rebuild and reset of Cerbaiona. As new owners of the property, we had concluded the purchase the estate just two weeks after the 2015 wines had finished fermentation, the last harvest under the direction of Diego Molinari, the prior owner.

The period that followed our new ownership, more than I had previously imagined, required a new approach – including the rebuilding of the cellar, a complete overhaul of all the cooperage and cellar equipment, not to mention new plantings and vineyard restructuring. More significantly, I began to evaluate the prior conditions and methods at Cerbaiona through the eyes of a critical craftsman. While I was able to put the 2015s in clean cooperage and provide better cellar hygiene, what I could not do was peal back the layers that had already become part of the wines before I inherited them.

I could set in place better work conditions and methods, but with the 2015s, it was as if I were looking at a precocious pianist or gifted, young athlete. The innate ability and characteristics of the place were there, but a firm hand needed to be put in place. I needed to tell my charge – Cerbaiona – that no matter what praise and accolades it had received – it needed to take a hard look at itself, work harder, question itself more, and determine its approach.

So the 2015 Cerbaiona Rosso di Montalcino – and renouncing the production of its Brunello label for 2015 – came to symbolise Cerbaiona’s approach towards its future: The custodians of a privileged vineyard site and historic estate must have the courage to question both themselves and their predecessors; to not rest on the estate’s past laurels; to study and work; and to carry forth a vision so that Cerbaiona reaches its full potential.

Again, I applaud the new owners for their ambition, and hope that can in fact surpass Molinari’s efforts. But keep in mind, of the three Brunellos that Galloni has ever rated 100 points, two were from Soldera (used to be $1000, now unattainable) and the other from Molinari’s Cerbaiona. It was a wine Galloni said “will leave readers weak at the knees. It is every bit that profound.”

And this final flourish from Diego Molinari has a similar sort of purity and traditional (and utterly unique) Brunello beauty. (If not price – that 2010 Cerbaiona sells, as a Pre-Arrival, for over $850!)

Italian wine lovers, do not miss this one.